The firm carries two varieties of its signature antioxidant-rich apple-based supplement: Activated Phenolics Powder and An Apple a Day.
The former is a broad-spectrum antioxidant powdered product containing eight phenolic types from all three antioxidant families, as well as the alkalising Oligospectine, a propriety fibre with prebiotic properties to support digestive health and maintain hydration. It can be added to hot or cold foods and beverages.
The latter contains similar ingredients and has the same effects, but comes in tablet form; each tablet is equivalent to one teaspoon of powdered supplement. Both products are made in Australia with locally sourced ingredients.
From project to production
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Renovatio founder Dr Vincent Candrawinata said it all started when he was approached by the Department of Primary Industries (New South Wales) after obtaining his bachelor's degree at the University of Newcastle Australia.
The department presented him with a project proposal to investigate the potential of antioxidants in apples.
"At that time, Australian apple farmers were finding it hard to compete with very cheap apples and apple products imported from China. The proposal I was given was to explore the health benefits of Australian produce compared to the cheap products from China.
"The government provided a research grant and after two years of research, I figured out that the antioxidant content of the phenolic compounds in Australian apples were a lot more potent than in the China ones."
This led him to develop the technology needed to extract, process and formulate Renovatio's proprietary antioxidant formula in 2012. He then spent the next two years improving it before completing his PhD in 2014.
But it wasn't until doctors in Singapore advised his grandmother to undergo knee replacement surgery for her arthritis that he even thought about commercialising his work.
"She was already quite old at the time and didn't want to go through (with the surgery), so she suffered really badly.
"I told her I had created a formula that was not yet approved but was safe, and I wanted her to try it as I believed it would reduce inflammation on a cellular level. At the time, the antioxidant concentration of the formula was probably only 20% to 30% of what we can produce now.
"After three months of taking it, she visited me in Sydney, and she was walking even distances of 4km to 5km very well. However, when I was first approached by my friend, who later became my angel investor, I said 'no' because I felt it was wrong to charge people for the result of some research.
"But my grandmother said it would be selfish for me not to make the product, because people will spend money on health supplements anyway, so they might as well spend on something that actually works."
Eventually, he established Renovatio in Australia, where its products are sold online, as well as in pharmacies, health food stores, and gyms.
Outside Australia, Renovatio is available in Hong Kong and parts of China, and will be launching in Macau this October. Additionally, the firm hopes to enter South Korea by the end of this year, if not Q1 2019.
The products are sold under the brand Biovida in South East Asia — namely Malaysia and Singapore — with a launch planned for Thailand in October.
Candrawinata revealed there were two products in the pipeline: a bioavailable multivitamin, and a fitness supplement. The latter was developed after he learnt that some customers use the Activated Phenolics Powder as part of their pre-workout preparation.
He added that customers aged 35 and below tended to prefer the tablets for their on-the-go convenience, whereas older customers preferred the powder, thanks in part to pill fatigue.
The brand also carries skin cream, mainly supplied to certain beauty salons (to help reduce redness and inflammation after hair removal treatments), and will be adding a facial wash product to its skincare range.
Extraction and absorption: The antioxidant quandary
Candrawinata told us that his discovery of the potent antioxidant content in Australian apples was a good sign not just for the local market, but for supplement users as well.
"The problem with antioxidant supplements is they are not sufficiently absorbed by the body, and a lot of this has to do with how they are made. They are synthesised and extracted from natural products, but using chemical solvents. These are not compatible with our biological system.
"So 95% of these substances people ingest are flushed out from the body. Studies have shown that when people take synthetic or non-absorbable multivitamins or health supplements, they actually tend to develop a higher risk of cancer or kidney and liver failure, since those are the organs responsible for flushing out what your body cannot absorb."
He added that a high level of antioxidants alone is not reflective of their actual benefits. Pine bark, for instance, is rich in antioxidants, but is also extracted using ethanol and methanol, which the human body lacks and therefore, cannot break down or absorb.
For this reason, he uses water for the extraction process in making Renovatio's supplements. However, since water is actually not an effective solvent for antioxidants, he had to find a way to make it work.
"Part of the research project was about how we could manipulate water molecules to not only extract the antioxidants but activate them, so the body could absorb it.
"The final outcome of the research was that, instead of 95% of ingested antioxidants being flushed out of the body, our technology ensured the opposite: 95% of antioxidant intake can now be absorbed by the body."
Trial and transformation
However, Renovatio has not conducted any clinical trials on its products yet.
Candrawinata explained: "Renovatio has been around only since 2015 and our type of product has never existed in any form before.
"But eventually, we will conduct pre-clinical, clinical and in vitro trials, which will be done in order to fulfil the regulatory requirements for the health claims we want to make about our products."
For Renovatio, however, this goes beyond mere regulatory approval.
Candrawinata added: "We want to make sure we have all the proper conditions for a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in place, so that when we do publish the research, it will be able to transform the way people view the nutraceutical industry.
"At the moment, many people have a negative idea of supplements, vitamins and minerals, and that has a lot to do with the low absorption rate, especially when it comes to antioxidant supplements.
"Nutraceuticals may not always work for everyone, but we have to make sure the standards are very high. Right now, it's not a standard practice to assess a nutraceutical product based on its absorption rate, and we want to make it a standard so people can consume such products with confidence.
"We are working on the frontlines of preventing illnesses and diseases, and helping people achieve a better quality of life, before they find themselves having to resort to pharmaceuticals."